Women employees of Unicef’s Jharkhand chapter pose on the eve of International Women’s Day. Telegraph picture
It all began with a maid. Barkha had come to me to work as a domestic help. A lady, post fifty, her demure physique still very attractive, but forehead etched with lines. Lines which foretold a story of worry and despair. The sunken eyes were testimony to the fact that she may have undergone this anxiety for years.
What was it that brought her to my home? Barkha explained that she wanted to live in my outhouse and do the household chores. Fair enough. But what about her family?
The nail had been hit on the head!
There was no family despite the vermilion that she sported on her forehead.
I asked what if her husband did not like the idea of her staying here. Rubbing her teary eyes, with her hands full of jingling glass bangles, she blurted that he would not look for her as she was fighting out a case with him.
“But why,” promptly I asked.
May be I should have understood.
Barkha revealed that her husband had taken a fancy for their daughter in law, who provided him with good meals and pleased him in ways more than one. All of this also bore the consent of Barkha’s son. Barkha was ready to tolerate this, realising that she was no longer in her youthful stage for satisfying the varying needs of her husband. But the last straw was when she was being denied food. To top this, each time she expressed her unhappiness with the daughter in law, she was beaten by the one who had taken sacred vows around the fire, her husband. Barkha’s son, the rising “Sun” for whom she had once envisioned dreams and of course the “other woman”, her daughter in law, also joined in lashing her. They had together driven her out of the house, and so, here she was.
Barkha’s story sent a chill down my spine. We talk of Women’s Day, women’s lib, anti harassment cell, human rights, NGO’s working for the cause of women, and the list is endless. How meaningful are these?
I immediately called out to my husband to ask what we could do to bail Barkha out of this situation.
A string of solutions followed but no, none of these were required.
“ But how can you let the scoundrel go scot free?”
“I have accepted this as my life” was Barkha’s weak response.
“It’s useless. All are hand in glove.”
A police complaint had been lodged, she explained, but alas, she was made out to be the culprit. On the contrary the police helped the so-called “family” in throwing her out of her own house. She moved around for help, but all in vain. Unfailing in hope she even met the local political representative whom she had voted to power …only to learn that it was best to keep her problems confined to herself rather than making it evident to the public eye!
And, therefore, here she was at my doorstep – having succumbed to all her injuries of body and mind.
Shakespeare rightly said, “Frailty thy name is woman.” While we celebrate International Women’s Day, we need to introspect: at least we who can make a difference in society cannot remain indifferent. Are we actually causing any positive change in society? Is physical strength required today? Or is emotional strength more important? Is the social stigma preventing women from speaking out about being subjugated to oppression at home?
A friend and a practising lawyer revealed to me that relationships in many cases were a drudgery…couples are reluctantly carrying on, living in a world of pretence. What is more striking is that many a time it is the woman herself who is the reason for family discord. Is then a woman another woman’s biggest enemy?
In a relationship a man and woman are complimentary to one another: partners in creation and partners in life. How can a woman then become subservient to the man? Both are on par with one another. Both must be in a win-win situation, otherwise all personal transactions are, and will be, seriously and severely vitiated.
Some of the most beautiful women I have known are those who have suffered loss, faced defeat and have found their way out of the depths. If there has to be an International Women’s Day, let it empower women, give them the confidence to speak without having to face any humiliation.
A woman is supposed to be an embodiment of beauty of mind and body. Let this beauty remain untouched. After all a thing of beauty is a joy forever!